“Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.” It seems, this proverb of King Solomon has caught the fancy of our rather verbose Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while he maintains studied silence at the time of catastrophic issues plague the nation. When the country’s biggest banking scam hit the airwaves, Narendra Modi was found passing on unsolicited tips to students on how to cope with examination stress, inaugurating the swanky new headquarters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and holding forth on Artificial Intelligence. It looks like the self-appointed “Chowkidar” of the country has abdicated all his responsibility, moral and otherwise.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is certainly no better and is only following the PM’s footsteps. Again, he did not utter a word on the Rs 21,000-crore PNB fraud. Instead, he slipped out of the country on an official visit to Saudi Arabia. The BJP has so far deployed Ravi Shankar Prasad (Minister for Law and Justice, and Information Technology), Prakash Javadekar (Minister for Human Resource Development), and finally, Nirmala Sitharaman (Defence Minister) to fend off tough questions from the press. Looking at how things have shaped so far, it is safe to say that expecting the Prime Minister to air his “Mann Ki Baat” on the PNB fraud is an exercise in futility and frustration.
This silence is not new. In the Rafale fighter jet procurement case, which smells like an alleged brewing scam of Rs 58,000 crore, questions raised are yet to be addressed by the government and the Prime Minister. The government is taking refuge under the “secrecy clause”. Despite claiming in November 2017 that the NDA obtained a cheaper deal as compared to the UPA, the Defence Minister now says the government cannot reveal the per-aircraft cost. On the question of whether the PM got the necessary clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security before going ahead with the deal, or on why he deemed it fit to bypass HAL in favour of a private entity with no previous defence production experience, there is radio silence.
Whenever the PM speaks, it is either to dish out more rhetoric, or to badmouth the Congress Party, or to point towards the past and claim victimhood. A similar studied silence was on display when Jay Shah, the son of BJP President Amit Shah emerged as the only success story in the chaos of Demonetisation, increasing his company’s annual turnover by nearly 16,000 times between 2014-16. Yet again, not a single word from the Prime Minister, as he presides over a government that is steeped in corruption.
When in Opposition, the BJP often vilified our economist Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh for his soft-spoken nature. Therefore, today it is only befitting that we question the PM in his party’s own language. Is it too much to expect ‘Mauni Modi’, who had promised to be the ‘chowkidar’ of the nation, to speak one word on this systematic organised loot of the public money? Four years have passed, in which the PM has often conveniently chosen silence as the preferred option in times of national crises. Leave alone the Opposition, Modi has not even addressed a single press conference in the tortuous four years. Can we expect any change now? Only ‘Mauni Modi’ can tell.